Trump and Trust: Examining the Relationship between Claims of Fraud and Citizen Attitudes

Trump and Trust: Examining the Relationship between Claims of Fraud and Citizen Attitudes

By Florian Justwan, University of Idaho and Ryan D. Williamson, Auburn University

Despite winning the presidency in 2016, Donald Trump alleged “millions of illegal votes” and other election fraud. He continued using this rhetoric throughout his tenure as president and ultimately suggested that if he did not win reelection in 2020, it would be because it somehow was stolen from him. Through an original survey experiment, this article explores how such allegations of fraud influence the public’s attitudes toward the conduct of elections, election outcomes, representation, and democracy as a whole. In doing so, we found that respondents expressed significantly and substantively more negative attitudes toward elections and democracy after being exposed to claims of fraud (even without evidence). Additionally, Republican identifiers were more likely than Democrats or Independents to doubt that their vote was counted fairly. These results bear important implications for our current understanding of politics in the United States.

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